Whether you are incapacitated for a long period of time, or die a sudden death, at some point, someone else (a surrogate or agent) will need to make decisions for you, and it is frequently a big job. It is easy to say “Oh, my children can work it out,” or “I’ll name John since he is the oldest.” But choosing someone (or more than one) is a crucial decision, and should be made after careful thought, not as a matter of default or emotion. Here are some things to consider.
1.Naming more than 1 person at a time is usually a mistake. They must agree on every small decision and both (or all) must sign off on every piece of paper. It can cause needless confrontations and delays. Pick the best person as the first choice, and then at least 1 and preferably 2 successors. If the first person is unavailable at the time, the next person in line can take over temporarily or permanently.
2.The oldest (or the youngest) is not necessarily the best. Pick the person who is best suited to the task at hand. If the person chosen becomes incapacitated before you, you can choose someone else, or let it default to the next person on your list.
3.Being in the same city is sometimes helpful, but not required. In this age of instant communication, a surrogate decision-maker can function effectively from a distance.
4.The surrogate does not need to be a relative. Just because you have children does not mean that any of them is the best choice. In fact, it can be helpful to family dynamics to choose a neutral third party, such as a competent good friend or trusted advisor.
5.Remember that the surrogate can consult with outside advisors such as attorneys or accountants, and does not need to know everything prior to accepting the duties entailed.
6.The person chosen to make financial decisions for you need not be the same person you choose to make medical decisions. Both are big responsibilities and spreading the work can be not only thoughtful, but prudent. People have different skill-sets and the person who is able to spend time in the hospital working with medical personnel may not be the best person to work with bankers and accountants, pay your bills and file your taxes.
Here are some qualities that should be kept in mind when choosing a surrogate decision-maker.
1.Organized and able to keep accurate records
2.Able to understand and meet deadlines
3.Capable of understanding finances, file taxes, pay bills, create and adhere to budgets.
1.Capable of staying calm in an emergency or emotional situation, and make rational rather than emotional decisions.
2.Capable of understanding medical personnel, stand up to doctors and be your advocate.
3.Willing to follow your wishes rather than his or her own. The child who is closest to you may not be willing to stop treatment even if that would be your wish.
4.Strong enough to stand up to family members, patient enough to explain things to family and friends that have questions, and compassionate enough to understand that others may be emotional regarding the situation.
Remember that making decisions and acting for others can be an important and sensitive job. Choose well, and you will minimize the potential problems and conflicts involved in carrying out your wishes.